Brain Aneurysm

An aneurysm is an outpouching of a blood vessel wall. This can occur anywhere there are blood vessels, including in the brain. The bulging, blood-filled pocket can put pressure on parts of the brain, potentially causing symptoms. In addition, the blood vessel can rupture (hemorrhage). Early detection and diagnosis may help prevent severe or fatal complications in some patients. Many aneurysms go unnoticed for a lifetime and cause no symptoms.

  • Causes


    Aneurysms form in areas where the artery wall becomes thin or weak. Thinning artery walls and resulting aneurysms can be caused by a number of factors. Common causes include:

    • Congenital (present at birth) weakness in artery wall
    • High blood pressure
    • Infection
    • Trauma
      or injury to the brain
    • Tumor
    • Plaque build-up on artery walls

  • Definition

    An aneurysm is an outpouching of a blood vessel wall. This can occur anywhere there are blood vessels, including in the brain. The bulging, blood-filled pocket can put pressure on parts of the brain, potentially causing symptoms. In addition, the blood vessel can rupture (hemorrhage). Early detection and diagnosis may help prevent severe or fatal complications in some patients. Many aneurysms go unnoticed for a lifetime and cause no symptoms.

    Brain Aneurysm
    IMAGE
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Tests may include the following:


    • Brain imaging, such as
      CT scan
      (x-rays seen on a computer) or
      MRI
      (magnetic waves are used to view images of the body)
    • Catheter
      ,
      MRI
      , or
      CT
      angiography (dye contrast test to view the arteries and veins)
    • Spinal fluid analysis

  • Prevention


    In many cases, there is no known way to prevent an aneurysm from forming. To help reduce your chances of getting a brain aneurysm or having it burst, take the following steps:

    • Control high blood pressure
    • Stop smoking
    • Avoid recreational drug use

    • Discuss with your doctor:

      • Benefits and risks of oral contraceptives

      • Whether it is safe to use daily
        aspirin
        or other pain medicines that may thin the blood

  • Risk Factors


    These factors increase your chance of developing a brain aneurysm. These risk factors also increase your chance of a rupture. Adults are more likely to develop an aneurysm than children. Females are at slightly higher risk. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

    • Old age
    • Genetic diseases (circulatory, connective tissue, or polycystic kidney disease)
    • Family history of aneurysms
    • Smoking
    • Heavy alcohol use
    • Drug abuse
    • High blood pressure
    • Tumors

    • Traumatic
      head injury
    • Arteriovenous malformations

  • Symptoms


    If you have any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to a brain aneurysm. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

    • Pain behind the eye
    • Numbness, sometimes on one side of the face or body
    • Weakness on one side of the body or face
    • Vision changes
    • Drooping eyelid
    • Differences between the size of the pupils
    • Speech impairment


    Most aneurysms do not cause symptoms until they leak or rupture. A leaking or ruptured aneurysm may cause:

    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Stiff neck
    • Confusion or sleepiness
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Seizures

  • Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Other medical conditions; lifestyle factors; as well as the type, size, and location of the aneurysm will direct treatment. For a known aneurysm that is not leaking or ruptured, treatment options include the following: